As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's transportation subcommittee, the senator used clout to get ads pulled from the New York radio station where outspoken conservative talk-show host Bob Grant holds forth.
After Mr. Grant was labeled a "racist" in a curiously written New York article, Sen. Lautenberg recalled Mr. Haytaian had appeared on the Grant show. He also knew Mr. Grant was a Haytaian supporter. So the Senator made the McCarthyesque connection and soon Mr. Haytaian was denying he was a racist.
Since Amtrak was airing advertising on the Grant show, Sen. Lautenberg called the magazine article to Amtrak's attention in a letter. Amtrak dutifully caved and canceled those spots.
We leave it to the Senate ethics committee to decide whether a senator can so flagrantly undercut the First Amendment and simultaneously turn a taxpayer-supported, non-issue-oriented marketing and media plan into his personal reelection-campaign weapon. Is an Amtrak's ad budget the same as a federal highway-construction contract?
Although Sen. Lautenberg won reelection last Tuesday, he's now a minority party member. Gone are this heavy-handed, reckless and cynical politician's committee chairmanships. That's got to be good news for Amtrak, broadcasters and advertising.